No Miller, no problem for Buckeyes

COLUMBUS — As a lightly recruited quarterback coming out of Aldine, Texas, in 2009, Kenny Guiton was likely headed to Prairie View A&M before being surprised by a late scholarship offer from Ohio State.


Ohio State quarterback Kenny Guiton scores on a 44-yard touchdown run during the first half of Saturday’s game against San Diego State in Columbus. (EXAMINER PHOTO | BRIAN HARMON)

The decision to offer Guiton was baffling to many of the diehard Buckeye recruitniks. But no one is criticizing it now.

Guiton, a redshirt senior backup, came on for an injured Braxton Miller early in the first quarter here Saturday and delivered a sparkling performance as the Buckeyes blew out San Diego State 42-7 in Ohio Stadium.

“I take pride in the fact the offense almost does not skip a beat when I come into the game,” said Guiton. “I just do my best to be a leader in that way. I let the team know everything is going to be okay.”

Getting the most work of his career, Guiton was 19-of-28 passing for 152 yards and two touchdowns and added another touchdown on a 44-yard keeper.

“The old right-hander steps in again,” said OSU head coach Urban Meyer. “He really did a nice job. He’s too slow, not strong-enough armed and all he does is lead, manage, distribute and has an incredible knowledge of the game. And incredible leadership skills.

“And our players respond.”

Meyer was making light of the public knocks on Guiton. Despite lacking elite athleticism, he always seems to get the job done when called upon.

Before Saturday, he was known most for rallying the Buckeyes to an improbably comeback win over Purdue last year after Miller went out with a head injury late in the game.

This time, the Buckeyes needed nearly a complete game from their backup. Miller was sandwiched between two Aztec players during a fourth-down run on the Buckeyes’ first offensive possession.

Miller’s helmet popped off on the play, and it first appeared that he was shaken up from a blow to the head. Instead, trainers on the field focused on his left knee.

He gingerly walked off the field and was eventually taken to the locker room. He returned to the field in the second quarter wearing a brace. The prognosis was listed as a sprained knee.

“We had a long discussion on the sideline,” said Meyer. “I think he could have (gone back in). But things that make him dangerous are his wheels ...  so we all decided it was best not to. I think there’s a chance he’ll be ready (this week against California).”

Should Miller be unable to play out west against Cal, both Meyer and Guiton’s teammates are confident their backup QB can come through again.

“He is one of the leaders of our team,” said senior receiver Corey Brown, who caught a pair of TD passes from Guiton. “Everyone on the team knows what we are getting when he comes into the game, a lot of confidence and a lot of swagger. When Kenny is out there, nobody is worried at all.”

On the first play after Guiton came on, he delivered an option pitch to freshman speedster Dontre Wilson, who sprinted untouched to the end zone on the near side of the field.

Guiton went on to toss a beautiful 27-yard TD strike to Brown later in the first quarter for a 14-0 lead.

Jordan Hall followed with a 4-yard TD run in the closing seconds of the opening period for a 21-0 Ohio State advantage.

Guiton then showed off his running skills. He kept the ball on a designed running play, sprinting through a big hole on the left side of the line for his 44-yard score with 5:33 left until halftime.

“I think I’ve heard coach Meyer say he’s as good a backup quarterback as there is in the country,” said San Diego State coach Rocky Long. “I don’t know how they decide which one starts, to be honest with you. They’re both very good players.”

Rod Smith, who returned from a one-game suspension for some off-the-field misconduct, tacked on a 1-yard TD run at the 3:15 mark of the second quarter to give the Buckeyes a commanding 35-0 cushion at the intermission.

The pace slowed in the second half, but Guiton continued to put his stamp on the contest. He delivered a 24-yard TD pass to Brown at the 4:34 mark of the third quarter.

San Diego State’s lone touchdown came on a 2-yard TD pass from Quinn Kaehler late in the third.

Kaehler relieved an ineffective Adam Dingwell in the first quarter and completed 22-of-36 passes with an interception. He was sacked three times.

Dingwell, who had been hyped in the preseason as one of the top quarterbacks in the Mountain West Conference, did not complete a pass in his five attempts. That included an interception, his fifth in two games.

“The quarterback is the most important position on any offense,” said Long. “If the quarterback plays well, the offense moves the ball and scores points. If the quarterback doesn’t play well, guess what, they don’t.

“We thought Adam didn’t play very well, so we put Quinn in and he played a little bit better. He completed a few passes, and not to the other team.”

Ohio State (2-0) outgained the Aztecs (0-2) 445-280. The Buckeyes held SDSU to 64 rushing yards on 27 carries (a 2.4 average).